CBS '60 Minutes' will feature a report Sunday night on Rosie Napravnik, the 25-year-old jockey who will be the only female riding in the Kentucky Derby.
But there's a backstage story to the report that features another 25-year-old woman, Michelle Boniface St. John, who grew up on the Bonita farm in Darlington, who helped produce the '60 Minutes' piece.
St. John, the daughter of Kevin C. and Chris Boniface, of the famous Maryland horse racing and training family, has been working at CBS News for the last four years. She started as a page in 2009 and is now an associate producer on "60 Minutes." Sunday, she will earn her first producer's credit. She appears to be the youngest staffer to have done that, according to a spokesman for the show.
St. John, who graduated from Washington & Lee University in 2009, played a key role in another horse racing piece for "60 Minutes," a 2010 profile of "Zenyatta."
Her contribution to that report was described as follows on "The Rail," the New York Times horse racing blog:
I was amused, but not at all surprised, that it took another woman, Michelle Boniface, a 23-year-old junior staff member at CBS with three generations of a Maryland horse racing family in her veins, to advocate to the network’s “60 Minutes” producers that this one mare, Zenyatta, was worthy of a few minutes of precious network air time for a profile on the program, just as if she was an iconic pop culture star, like Sinatra or Sting.
In the video back story seen online on “60 Minutes Overtime,” the producers acknowledge it was their own young, in-house “horse whisperer,” Boniface, who lobbied for the Zenyatta segment, explaining her achievements and relevance in racing to the CBS suits, identifying the best angle to position their cameras at Hollywood Park to capture their equine subject at work and interpreting the horse’s behaviors, whether normal or unique, to increase the impact of the story.
That's the kind of effort that gets you promoted at the rate St. John has.
"This is a story that's not only really close to my heart but something I could contribute to and give some insight," St. John said Friday. "The fact that she's from Maryland is important to me. I always followed the jockeys who started in Maryland, the ones that worked with my family when I was younger and I was friendly with at the race track. So, it's exciting not only to see a woman but a woman from Maryland do so well. And it's even more exciting to get my first producer credit on something that has to do with racing."